Miles Kington: Larry's not happy. And as for Wally...

Why did they do it? My parents, I mean. They must have known that everyone would laugh
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The Independent Online

There must have been about 50 men in the room. They seemed cheerful enough, waiting for the chairman to start the proceedings, but when he stood up and introduced the first speaker, there was immediate silence and a certain apprehension.

"My name is Wallace," said the new speaker.

There was no reaction.

"My friends call me Wally," he said.

There was a sound, half chuckle, half sigh, from the gathering.

For we are at a meeting of NA. Which stands for "Names Anonymous". A group of people who get together to comfort each other about the names they had been given as children.

"I do not suffer much," said Wally. "People sometimes say 'Oh yes, a bit of a wally' or 'Well, you can't help being a wally, can you?', and it hurts, but I live with it. But it still hurts. Do you know the feeling?"

There was a low growl of assent. Another man stood up.

"My name is Charlie," he said. "My nickname at work is 'Proper'. I find this unfair. If you are a famous Charlie, you don't get called a proper Charlie. It didn't happen to Charlie Chaplin, or Charlie Watts, or ... or ..."

He searched for another Charlie.

"It might happen to Prince Charles," said someone.

There was laughter, until the chairman rapped the table.

"Order, order! One of the ground rules of Names Anonymous is that we don't make fun of anyone because of their name. If we succumb to the temptation, how can we blame other people for doing it?"

The ensuing silence was broken by another member.

"My name is Larry," he said. "You wouldn't think that caused me problems. Happy as Larry. Such a harmless expression, isn't it? But it has caused me endless grief. Every time I am feeling less than ecstatic, people say: Cheer up, Larry! Not as happy as Larry, are we? Must be some other Larry, then! I don't know who Larry was, but I could cheerfully murder him. Well, when I say 'cheerfully' ..."

"As a matter of interest," said the man called Charlie, "does the memory of Larry the Lamb cause you any problems?"

"With older people," said Larry, "you get the occasional bleating noise when they learn my name, but it's no big deal."

After Larry, there was a Herbert, and a Norman, and a Trev, but the most unusual one was a chap called Jack Robinson.

"Why did they do it?" he said. "My parents, I mean. They must have known. Before you can say 'Jack Robinson'. They must have known that everyone I met would have laughed and said the same thing. Every time. Everyone."

He looked miserable. He sat down. He was replaced by three men standing up together.

"I'm Tom," said the first.

"I'm Dick."

"I'm Harry."

Their timing was spot on. There was general laughter.

"Do you work as a team?" said the chairman.

"Quite often," said Tom.

"In pubs mostly," said Dick.

"It gets us a lot of free rounds," said Harry.

But the temporary air of jollity was dispelled when another new member stood up.

"My name is Head," he said.

People frowned.

"My full name is Richard Head."

Still they frowned.

"But people call me Dick."

Enlightenment dawned. There was a gasp of true horror...

Perhaps we should draw the veil there. But if you have a name which amuses people, why not get in touch with NA? There is also a women's branch, for anyone called Sharon, Nancy, etc.